It's still hard and the world is a completely different place with loss of this size.
We were so close growing up and then were reconnecting again after I left the U.S. and traveled the world for seven years in attempt to make new home. I'd made the circle. I was coming home. And I wanted to be close to Aaron. And then suddenly within two years he was gone. An overdose. He was doing well getting clean but then there was that last fatal shoot up.
That's the story.
What does it mean?
I got the call while living in crap flat in North London with black mould that wouldn't leave etc. My sister Shantell called from the U.S. I got descriptions of how my step dad found him on the floor the next morning when he was picking him up for work. Near the door. Swollen and blue.
I didn't want to think of him suffering. The door was locked so he could shoot up in private. Was he trying to get to the door? Why didn't I call him when I was in London. What could I have said?
And then, like anyone who has experienced loss of someone very close, there was anger and frustration. Why were people laughing outside? Don't they know my brother died? And then looking at people around me and getting angry that they were alive and my brother was not alive. And then wondering what I could have done to help.
I ran away because I needed space to sort out a lot of fucked up shit. And Aaron was now the eldest when I left. And all that shit now fell on him because I had to get out of there.
He was 13 when I left. The same age when the shit fell heavy on me.
And then the reuniting after close call with death and heroin and he was clean and exercising and hopeful and I was hopeful too because the turmoil of family life I grew up was more calm and peaceful overall.
And me and Aaron and my brothers Luke and Spencer reconnected. And I felt a place. More reconciled. To what? For what?
I dream of Aaron often. He was the link to my childhood and my adulthood.
I have a tattoo in my right forearm that means NOTHING in Chinese. It reminds me to remember emptiness is form and form is emptiness.
What does that mean?
I thought I knew what it meant.
All this mass suffering in millions of ways with billions of people. Drown it out. See it. Turn it over and over and see it.
Life is shit. But sometimes beautiful. But a lot of shit.
And what's the point of any of it! There is no point. Happiness?
I write because there is no other way. Fuck all this university bullshit careerism and little well made word artefacts. Or all those people plugged into their upper middle class art worlds and their biggest worry if they can have as much money as another artist to make their big art project NOT if they have a place to live or food to eat. Not survival. Or worrying about why male artists receive more recognition than female artists. They are in a completely different world.
But that's OK. Who wants to be in survival mode all the time.
Do I want to be in their world?
I guess I want them to see their huge privilege. Female as well as male.
What happened to male rape? It's embarrassing. It's not talked about. Men worn down by a system that pushes success and bringing home money etc etc.
yes your privilege makes your privilege invisible.
Male and female.
I saw my whiteness as a minority in a mostly African American high school.
I saw the shit my mum went through as a woman growing up.
I am now finally recognising the shit that working class men go through too. The working men I have seen and avoided most of my life to get away. To be in some other world.
I hope I remember the world I came from. I hope I can see how my worries shift. I hope I can see the difference!
And it's relative. Of course.
I think I am moving up. I maybe made closer to £20,000 this last year. £1,400 a month after taxes.
I am 40. I have been working since age 14. I have put myself through 8 years of university. And so on. Am I poor? No. I live a simple life. Am I middle class? I might be middle class. What is middle class? Is it a state of mind or how much money is in the bank? I have a university degree and teach university on a fractional/adjunct contract. I am middle class.
My brother's truck was repossesed shortly before he died. In Utah, in a small town, that means something much different than not having a vehicle in the UK. He rode his bicycle to pick up groceries for his girlfriend and step son. He picked up scrap metal and worked on hot roofs with my step dad fixing air conditioners. He was constantly in debt to the state of Utah for fees and penalties for his drug use. He was in survival mode all the time. Food and bills and survival and trying to make good with his step son and girlfriend who was a heavy heroin user in past as well.
It all fell apart.
He got a haircut on the day he died. He had a good day. He finally got a few hundred dollars in his bank account and called my mum happy.
I live in an estate. Canary Wharf is down the road. And it is a completely different world. Shopping malls. Status. Power. Morgan Stanley. HSBC. Yadda yadda.
Elsewhere my money means a shitload. In London it is not enough to live with hipster cool art students in "cool" areas of East London.
I am lucky. I am privileged.
It's easy to forget.
It depends how you measure your life. Who or what you compare it to?
This goes for race gender class and all other forms of privilege. All other causes.
There are homeless.
There are . . .
Class is left out of Feminism too often. It's acknowledged but not really fully looked at. I mean in public. Where it matters.
Working class men are sometimes prostitutes. Their body worn down and for much less than a female prostitute who uses her body. And these male prostitutes are not acknowledged. They are doing their manly duty. I have seen it most of my life up close. And their wives at home trying to create perfect home.
But that's only my experience.
There are lots of particular ways of suffering.
When I was in university and in many women's studies classes and some of the rich upper middle class women said thank you for giving up some of your power I was a little mystified. I come from a working class background and the first and only to go to university and where did I fit in this culture?
I have power. They have power. Who has more power? Why were they so blind about their own power too.
It was all labeled and fit neatly into little boxes of gender politics.
I often thought of my self as a woman. I didn't have the parts but I could never do manly things well. I thought I was gay. I couldn't walk the right way and people said I need to walk more like a man and less like a girl.
I could sometimes become aggressive. Did that mean I was a man again?
I tried to people please all the time. I got social anxiety. Big time anxiety. I down played my own knowledge. I kept humble. What I thought was humble.
I cried almost every night, or every other night, in my room from age 12-18.
Did that make me more like a girl again?
My life was damn hard in many ways but I had pretty boy looks. I looked like a girl as a kid.
I worked construction. I was a dishwasher. I worked in factories. I worked many many jobs since age 14.
I was trying to be a man again and square it with my working class background.
I was no good at it. I worked my ass off to study and go to university. And that was a different world.
First generation immigrant makes good?
Nah. Maybe. Nah. Whatever. I don't fuckin know.
I teach at a university and get enough money to be OK in London with simple life. I try to pass as middle class while teaching university. I am passing. But I get anxious. I have to keep remembering it is a big show. A game. A play. Clothes are only a costume. Can you become your costume?
My voice is simple straight shooting voice.
But I am university educated.
I was given fancy words.
What do I do? How can I fit? How do we all fit?
I don't buy much. I don't own a car or credit card or tv or or or . .
And that's good. I like my simple life.
Everyone wants to simplify things into causes.
It's never simple.
Or it is.
Suffering is simple. It's universal. It's also particular.
My brother could see his life reflected in Bukowski's writing. I avoided Bukowski for a long time. And finally for the last six months I have been reading everything. My bother always talked about reading Bukowski. It was the only books he really read in high school. And now after reading so much Bukowski I can see why.
That raw honesty. Bukowski is ugly. Bukowski is beautiful. And often very very aware of the whole game. Including the game of his public image. Including some of his misogyny. It's in the writing. It's not in the public persona so much. It's all there in the writing.
I guess I like Bukowski's writings better than 95% of artful university educated writing. Yes there is some misogyny. But that's not the whole story. I would take Bukowski's misogyny over a million well made little stories and poems from male or female writers with their phd in creative writing etc.
And that's where I am now. I am not Bukowski. I don't have that particular life or experience or that particular suffering. But I want that attempt at raw honesty. That includes doubt. Lots of doubt.
Writing is not a degree. It's not legitimate. It's a big zero. An impossibility. Life is an impossibility.
But here we are. Alive. For now.
I wanted to make good for my brother. What does that mean? I have to ask myself that a lot while walking tight rope of nihilism.
Back to existence. Existentialism. And basic Buddhism.
(Last Christmas I would spend with my brother Aaron. He is on left)
Labels: aaron slease, Buddhism, Bukowski, class struggle, feminism, marcus slease